The best 90s songs that still sound great today!

Top 90s songs:  With these classic songs from the best 90s songs, your Discman is about to work hard.

90s Top songs

90s Top songs

Do you remember when electronic music seemed futuristic? Where do troublemakers like A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys, and Pavement fit in?

The best 90s songs Even though there is no such thing as a musical monolith, the 1990s seem particularly dispersed when you look at all their top songs in one place. Grunge and gangsta rap on one end, boy bands and Britney Spears on the other, are what history has reduced it to, but it’s the material in between and on the periphery that makes the era challenging to define.

Oasis and the rest of the Britpop crowd made almost as much of an impact in England as Nirvana and the other Seattleites did. Hip-hop swept the globe and appeared to evolve on a regular basis.

And that’s not even including the completely arbitrary ska and swing revivals, though you won’t hear anything else about them here.

Given the crowded competition, we were incredibly picky when creating this playlist, choosing only one song from each artist, and sticking to all bangers.

Top 90s Songs List

The best 90s songs There is some generational disagreement over whether the 1990s were the best decade for music, but as you’ll hear, there was never a dull moment.

Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

The cool kids will all admit that when Nirvana released Bleach on Sub Pop in 1989, they were a big influence on them. The popular kids are all lying. The first 10 seconds of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the radio, with Kurt Cobain’s gritty Boston-aping guitar riff erupting and Dave Grohl’s drum kit and Krist Novoselic’s bass slamming their way into the song and our collective consciousness, were all it took for them to become fans of Nirvana.

popular 90s songs It’s hard to overstate the sonic earthquake that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” caused around the world in 1991, but there have been many words written about it and we’re about to add a few more. The sound of Seattle’s grunge scene emerging from the garage like a ravaging beast was unlike anything we had ever heard. A unique anthem had been discovered by a generation of disenchanted young people.

The now-iconic video created by Samuel Bayer for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” adds one more element that elevates it to the song of the decade status. As frightening and anarchic as the song itself, his lo-fi, sepia-saturated interpretation of a school concert that turns violent, complete with slo-mo cheerleaders, busted guitars, smoke, and fire in a sports hall full of sweaty headbanging kids. Everyone looked at it. They all agreed that they would never forget it. Arthur, Tim

“Nuthin” However, a “G” Thang’ by Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre

Popular 90s songs The 1990s didn’t officially begin until Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre knocked on the door, if “Smells Like Teen Spirit” wasn’t so much responsible for ending the 1980s as it was for ushering in the 1990s. Both Dr. Dre and Snoop had really made their public debuts months earlier on the soundtrack to the film Deep Cover, which had already made waves in the rap scene and rattled white America’s nerves.

The fact that “”G” Thang” sounded unlike anything hip-hop had ever heard before—a painstakingly produced gangsta symphony, built from smokey wah guitar, whistling synths, and creeping bass, all flowing smoother than a river of Courvoisier—meant that it still had resonance as an introduction. Lyrically, it lacks the rage of Straight Outta Compton and the casual nihilism that can be heard on other tracks on Dre’s solo breakout, The Chronic; instead, it has the feel of two dudes swapping verses at a backyard barbecue, which is further emphasized by the laid-back music video. It’s understandable why children everywhere wanted to live in this fictitious version of inner-city Los Angeles; for a brief period, everyone did. Michael Singer

The Notorious BIG’s “Juicy”

Christopher Wallace, in the first single of his enormous debut album “Ready to Die,” has done more than anybody else before or since to defend the gangsta rap way of life. Because Biggie skillfully contrasts his background of Bed-Stuy poverty with the ostentatious trappings of fame and money (such as a Super Nintendo and a Sega Genesis, a reference that today sounds as quaint as the Sugarhill Gang’s “hotel, motel, Holiday Inn”), “Juicy” succeeds. J. Manning

Daft Punk’s “Da Funk”

Top 90s songs It’s almost unbelievable to think that DP produced an entire album of the euphoric, thumping house in “Homework,” the highlight of which was “Da Funk,” years before they began collaborating with Pharrell and providing the music for runway presentations. It referred to the earlier dance music genres that gave rise to it (the winding, acid synths, the powerful, Godzilla-flooring percussion), but it also had something new and amazing running through it: da funk. Thomas Parker

Pulp’s “Common People”

Top 90s songs Do the fact that the song’s subject, a Greek girl with a hunger for education, supposedly wed Marxist economist and unconventional finance minister Yanis Varoufakis invalidate this blistering Britpop anthem? No, not in the least. With its clever social message delivered over a stonking disco beat and an enduring riff, “Common People” will always be more relatable than that. It’s conceivably history’s best sociopolitical filler, to put it mildly. And wouldn’t it be fantastic if a lanky Yorkshire singer had, in some small, incidental way, altered the economic future of the Eurozone two decades later? J. Manning

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Portishead’s “Glory Box”

Top 90s songs Without exaggeration, Bristol was one of the world’s most significant musical centers in the 1990s. The band Portishead was at the center of it all; their dark, brooding, and the frequently oppressive sound was a conglomeration of paradoxes that gave “trip-hop” its name. The music, which blended jazz and soul samples with powerful hip-hop beats and throbbing basslines, was superb, but Beth Gibbons’ vocals stood out. The finest example is “Glory Box,” a soul-searching love song performed over a smokey backing track of jazz rhythms, tinkling pianos, and melancholy strings that effortlessly transition from delicate downtempo passages to ear-shredding guitar crescendos. Jeremy Cook

Blur’s “Beetlebum”

90s hits songs, 90s songs list Yes, we did say “Beetlebum.” There’s always “Tender” for a campfire singalong, “Song 2” for a good time, and “Parklife” for some beery Britpop, but “Beetlebum” is the one to listen to if you want Blur performing what they did best: fusing traditional British songwriting with bizarre alt-rock. This is Britpop’s best band at their all-time high, what with Damon’s heroin-chic drawl and Graham’s drooping riff and devastating solo. Phil Daniels, I’m sorry. J. Manning

Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy,”

90s hits songs, 90s songs list Massive Attack will always be remembered as trip-hop pioneers, for better or worse, although by far their most significant contribution didn’t actually fit that description. ‘Unfinished Sympathy,’ a somber but upbeat ballad dotted with samples, was hailed as a masterpiece upon release and is still relevant today. Shara Nelson’s effortlessly powerful voice, soaring violins, and the melancholy percussion bells that open the song are all expertly placed, and they still have the potential to send shivers down some people’s spines. Thomas Parker

My Bloody Valentine’s “Soon”

90s hits songs, 90s songs list “Shoegaze” was never a great phrase for the hazy, chaotic, deafeningly loud sound put out in the late ’80s by My Bloody Valentine. It was purportedly inspired by a crop of bands who allegedly preferred staring at their guitar effects pedals to engaging with the crowd. Ride, Slowdive, Lush, Chapterhouse, and The Telescopes are some more bands with similar labels that did some amazing things with noise and melody. The crowning achievement of the movement’s “sonic cathedral” was MBV’s unique album “Lovelessclimactic “‘s the track, “Soon,” a seven-minute confection of breakbeats, flushing and blooming guitar tones, and vocal coos that were so painfully lovely. Whatever name you choose, it still sounds wonderful. J. Manning

TLC’s “Waterfalls”

90s hits songs, 90s songs list Badass R&B crew TLC were on it twenty years before Kanye West realized the enduring greatness of Paul McCartney. They have altered a 1980 Macca ballad about the hazardous activity of a waterfall jumping into an emotional urban drama with an unforgettable chorus. Drugs, murder, and HIV are just a few of the calamities Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez addresses in her verses before preaching the virtues of optimism and self-belief. And obviously God.” James Manning

Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice”

90s hits songs, 90s songs list Snoop was creating a stir by almost stealing Dr. Dre’s ‘The Chronic,’ an album that should be at the top of any ranking of ’90s recordings, long before he started hanging out with Martha Stewart. The song “Gin & Juice” from Snoop’s breakthrough album, “Doggystyle,” became one of the most popular hangout tunes of all time. Even now, you can still hear the song being played on slow-moving cars all around the world, frequently with a trail of smoke. Furthermore, the song made people aware of the lighter side of gangsta rap, which is no small achievement for the artist who also had a hit with “Murder Was the Case.” John Kryza

PJ Harvey’s “Rid of Me”

90s hits songs, 90s songs list Not only Nirvana, but other ’90s bands also turned their backs on the masses after chart-topping albums. Similar to the Seattle A-listers in “In Utero,” Dorset’s own Polly for her second album, “Rid of Me,” punk rock recording engineer Steve Albini (known for his raw, unpolished sound) was chosen by Jean Harvey. The title tune, an electric blues-rock primal howl that is equal parts lovesick cry and feminist stomp, has it all. It turns out that MC Hammer was mistaken; you cannot touch this. Matthew Curle

Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon”

90s hits songs, 90s songs list Right around the close of the decade, the queer feminist dance-punk band Le Tigre released their cult-classic debut album, also titled “Le Tigre.” Its thrilling and incredibly catchy centerpiece is “Deceptacon,” which is propelled by Kathleen Hanna’s fierce singing and a buzzing synth line. She sings, “Who removed the ram from the ram-a-lama-ding-dong?”. It’s an accusation that has never been made against Le Tigre. Toby Levine

Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot”

90s hits songs, 90s songs list The Beasties were constantly reinventing themselves during the decade between 1989 and 1999, but “Ill Communication” bridged the punk/jazz/hip-hop of “Check Your Head” and opened the door for mainstream success. The opening track from “Ill Communication” serves as both a mission statement and a demonstration of their cocky, brash, and eccentric musical prowess: Although “Sure Shot” is a candidate for the time capsule, “Sabotage” had the more memorable video. John Kryza

Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”

90s hits songs, 90s songs list In the early 1990s, On A Friday, a crunchy, Americanized alt rock band, was the forerunner of Thom Yorke’s Merry Men. They recorded the incredibly melancholy, minimalist, and esoteric electronic tracks that would appear on Kid A at the end of the decade. With its strange time signatures and conceptual lyrics, “Paranoid Android” epitomizes this change while also evoking Radiohead’s earlier days when the band wasn’t too cool and clever to come up with a killer riff. J. Manning

Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”

90s hits songs, 90s songs list The steampunk Salvador Dali music video for the industrial rock song “Closer,” which is a pulsating, hyper-sexualized chunk of grime-covered industrial rock, helped it become widely accepted in all spheres of culture. Trent Reznor, who announced the arrival of the mall-goth era in popular culture by screaming about his most animalistic urges, was somehow just as much of a fixture of MTV as Ace of Base and Celine Dion. John Kryza

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